The Doctor receives yet another distress call, but this time it is from another Time Lord; sent from a bubble universe and so that might just mean that some of the Doctor’s people are still alive.
No of course it doesn’t. All of the Doctor’s people vanished in that ridiculous Time War. I still don’t understand what happened to thoseTime Lords we saw in previous stories. If they have been wiped from History then surely the stories didn’t happen and we’re then remembering “non-stories”. Mind-boggling…
What he does find, though, is a veritable graveyard of Time Lords, lured to their doom by a mysterious entity known as House (voiced by a heavily-disguised Michael Sheen). Why no one missed these Time Lords is not explained, but that isn’t the thrust of this episode.
Writer Neil Gaiman, himself a fan of the series it seems, has ventured into that realm of “what if” so many fans have visited almost since the series began in 1963. The Doctor’s time-travelling machine, the TARDIS, was a machine of mystery and as the years passed it was referenced on many occassions as if alive. Naturally fans wondered, inlcuding myself, what it would be like to converse directly with the device.
Disppointingly, all what we got were a few cleverly-written dialogues between the Doctor and his machine, but the TARDIS was not other-worldly at all – just a slightly confused woman. The possibilities that this machine intelligence might think differently or have some surprising view of life were not taken up. All that was surprising was that the TARDIS felt the Doctor belonged to it, rather than vice versa, and that it had ‘chosen’ the Doctor. A nice twist, but not the basis for a whole episode.
The story was littered with references to old – sometimes very old – Doctor Who adventures which no doubt left some fans almost overcome with excitement. But again I say that these don’t make a whole episode. No, at the end of it all I didn’t felt I’d experienced a 45-minute tale, more like a 25-minuter.
What was particularly disappointing was the ‘new’ interior of the TARDIS. Er, a load of corridors, decidely starship Enterprise-like. No doubt some might see this as an ironic nod to past cliches, but those corridors were just boring, in every way. Even a big empty room would have been something. There must be some of those in Cardiff! Or maybe an opened door might reveal something amazing beyond. No. It was unimaginative.
This episode also highlighted a particular failing of the re-imagined series. The sound effects are barely there. Once, the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop would have produced all manner of strange sounds and here was a fantastic opportunity to provide a creepy other-universe feel with some sound effects. But the bubble universe sounded bland. Likewise, some unusual sound effects could have pepped up those TARDIS corridors.
All in all, a nice idea, nicely executed, but not imaginatively. It was neither bad, nor good. It didn’t stimulate the imagination – and I didn’t even get to there being another instance of Rory dying – nor did it upset. At least it didn’t insult the audience by explaining the identity of the Doctor’s wife. Bless…